Bob Dylan – George Washington University 2010 (Highway HW 039/040)

George Washington University 2010 (Highway)

Disk 1 : Intro / Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 / Señor ( Tales Of Yankee Power ) / Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues / Just Like A Women / Rollin’ & Tumblin’ / Tryin’ To Get To Heaven / Summer Days / Desolation Row ( 51:40 )

Disk 2 : High Water ( For Charly Patton ) / Simple Twist Of Fate / Highway 61 Revisited / Ain’t Talkin’ / Thunder On The Mountain / Ballad Of A Thin Man / “Audience” / Jolene / “Band Introduction” / Like A Rolling Stone.

On November 13th 2010 Dylan brought his band back to Washington, DC. The very same Washington that he played at in August 1963 to an amassed audience of 250,000 at the March on Washington. Then he played 2 of his own relatively unknown compositions while the resulting footage would transport his message around the country & even the world. Dylan obviously needs no such introduction these days & neither does he stick so strictly to the pacifistic beatnik role instead rolling out his act as almost pure & ernest entertainment. 

Highway present us with a clear but sometimes  distant audience tape from the show. As with most audience recorded shows then the crowd is as much of a factor as Dylan is – If he’s having a bad night then leave it to the band to measure & adjust so they can pick things up. With the attended then it just depends who’s near the taper – A quiet & respectful crowd is a bonus. A rowdy, shouty crowd is not necessarily a bad thing as they ad a little more atmosphere but then there’s always one ..

Tonight’s buffoon mercifully doesn’t stick around too long. Following the announcement ( Which, owing to the loudness of the tape, is barely there but if you’re reading this then it’s safe to say that you’ll be more or less familiar with it by now & could probably recite half of it in your sleep. ) the band roll out “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” our excited friend can be heard cajoling Bobby on with a few choice words of encouragement. The rendition itself is a heartily swingin’ version that gets the audience singing along at the appropriate points – No stones are rolled or unturned but for an opener it bodes well. 

“Señor” gets a rare outing for this season & takes the audience by surprise – That it’s a real heartfelt performance pays dividends to Bobby – He’s clear & concise this time & puts his back right in to the performance whipping out the harp for a warmly greeted solo in the middle.   

“Just Like Toms Thumb’s Blues” would be unrecognisable part for the chorus. For the uninitiated then it might come as shock after listening to the bar room belled & chiming original – This version rocks harder than that.

“Rollin’ & Tumblin'” is generally the take off point for the set – Manic, crashing percussion lifts the band off of their feet & throws the quietness to the wilds. It’s also one of the songs where Dylan seems NEVER to put a foot wrong – It is reasonably impossible to falter with such a straight forward boogie as this & neither can you go far wrong for entertainment but the quality is assured each & every time. 

Just as we thought Dylan might retire back to his standard set list along comes an extended “Tryin’ To Get To Heaven”, previously played at Pittsburgh on the 7th of this month, the “Time Out Of Mind” track brings down the pace a little slower again. It’s recognised by a small contingent of the audience at it’s first line ( Though this COULD be just due respect for Dylan. ) He paddles along sufficiently on organ through out while a dreamily sweet solo punctuates the first instrumental section & the harp is introduced during the second adding extra layers of wistful beauty. 

“Desolation Row” has Dylan reaching out for new ways to sing through. Rather than just speaking the lyrics as he has mostly done he actually finds his singing voice & opens up the field. This heralds a brightening of the track & the way it’s usually performed. Generally it’s a straight run through but tonight’s “Moon-Soon-June” style singing is actually quite charming as is the tickly style of the organ playing a few choruses in – It certainly seems to amuse a few of the attendees tonight before the instrumentation gradually gets a little harder & more forceful. 

To start us off on disk two we’re gifted with the forceful “High Water” – a pivotal moment of any Dylan show nowadays & still one of it’s strongest moments – that, for the past few years at least, Mother Nature seems to have written out the fate of the world in large letters then Dylan has written it’s score. As the song comes to it’s end someone shouts out for “Must Be Santa” – one of the tracks from his strange, late Christmas album. Maybe Bobby thought it was a little too early for Christmas dittys or he doesn’t hear as this unlucky concertgoer doesn’t get her her wish granted .. I didn’t think she stood a snowballs chance in hell personally .. 

“Highway 61 Revisited” sounds as deathless as ever tonight too – It picks up the – metaphorical – carpet in the venue & shakes the inhabitants out sprinkling the ashes all around. It’s all thundering visit virtually has the audience screaming out in excitement – The real pleasure comes out in the playfulness of Dylan’s organ solos. He’s always happy to wig out on these sections & usually does his damnedest to tease electricity from the mood of his playing. The improvisational touch is pared perfectly when played with tis band too as they never take their eye off the ball each watching each others movements down to split seconds to propel the song forward just so. 

“Ain’t Talkin” from ‘Modern Times’ has an long outing. One of the tracks where Dylan seems to stand chest to chest with the audience & they seem to feed straight from it. The exulted cheers acknowledging the power that the song holds while the all too true lyrics that find Dylan dealing with his advancing years are lapped up & heralded at every turn.

A specially extended “Thunder On The Mountain” follows with a dramatically drawn out beginning that almost happens in slow motion before an emptier rendition follows – free of the guitar licks that usually spring along it is sketched out by acoustic guitaring, the bouncy organ shuffle & a pace perfect percussion backbone. Things start to really get going towards the end as the usual dueling pervades between organ & guitar before we run towards a fanciful & beatifically dramatic ending. 

Highway have decided on their usual trick of leaving in the audience applause between main sets & encores which means we get an additional 3 and a half minutes of gratification for our troubles – I’d have to admit if it was me who had attended then I’d be happy with having the full reactions kept just they are – & it would appear churlish to say that they get in the way too so at least we get the full set. 

The first encore is a fueled version of ‘Together Through Life’s’ “Jolene” – a new concert favorite that puts on it’s mid pace groove & invites you out to dance. As it suits Dylan’s voice down to the ground then it’s perfect for closing the show but we know it’ll never be the end as Dylan still has to play us out a classic – “Like A Rolling Stone” comes out to fill that place – A swooning, generous interpretation that has the audience confidently singing back Dylan’s own words back to him. He wisely never succumbs power though & keeps singing each & every line as the entertainer he is – no matter how much the audience like to join in the festivities they’ve come to see Bobby so he gives as good as they want.  

Despite the clean but flimsy artwork then this could be one of the better shows to own – Slightly less powerful than a Crystal Cat but certainly a lot better than some of the other audience tapes that have emerged from this tour.  

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